Google’s self-driving offshoot Waymo is a step closer to making fully-autonomous vehicles a mainstream reality, according to a new government report released this week.
California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has released its annual autonomous vehicles disengagement report, which details the number of times human drivers were forced to take control back from driverless vehicles during testing on public roads.
All companies that are actively using autonomous vehicles on public roads are required to contribute to the report, and Waymo has posted some impressive figures.
In 2016, the company reported a huge drop in disengagements, while also ramping up the number of miles driven autonomously by driverless vehicles.
Since 2015, Waymo reports its rate of safety-related disengagements has fallen from 0.8 times per 1000 miles (1600km), already a respectable number, to just 0.2 per 1000 miles.
The company has also increased its total driving by 50 per cent last year – up to 635,868 miles (1,023,330km).
In a blog post, Dimitri Dolgov, head of self-driving technology for Waymo, said: “This four-fold improvement reflects the significant work we’ve been doing to make our software and hardware more capable and mature”.
“And because we’re creating a self-driving car that can take you from door to door, almost all our time has been spent on complex urban or suburban streets.”
“This has given us valuable experience sharing the road safely with pedestrians and cyclists, and practicing advanced maneuvers such as making unprotected left turns and traversing multi-lane intersections,” he added.
According to Waymo, the majority of its disengagements were a result of “software glitches”, while “unwanted maneuvers”, “perception discrepancies” and “recklessly behaving road user” accounting for smaller amounts. There have been no reports of the vehicles being involved in collisions.
In addition to these latest developments, Waymo also plans to deploy its fleet of driverless Chrysler Pacifica MPVs, which it first presented at the Detroit motor show in January.
According to The Verge, the fleet will start driving on the streets of Mountain View, California, and Phoenix, Arizona, over the next week.